Asian papers and their applications in paper conservation

by Sarah Graham

Leiden city centre

In July, the historic, sun-soaked city of Leiden played host to Minah Song’s workshop on Asian papers. Thanks to Icon’s Book and Paper Group, I was able to attend this fascinating three-day course. It was a great opportunity to step away from working on historic material and experiment under Minah’s guidance. The creative space of the Galerie Leidse Lente lent itself well to the practical sessions Minah set for the workshop where we refined our understanding and technique with Asian papers. Minah practices in the United States but her trips to Asia provide for vivid descriptions and images of the practices in the different mills and make full use of her multi-lingual talents.

Infil with paper made and toned on the course

‘Japanese papers’ are ubiquitous in conservation repair techniques, yet I felt I needed more contextual knowledge about their production and quality. I wanted to know more about regional differences and how similarly they react to Western papers when used in repairs. Furthermore, I was interested in learning how to produce my own papers to suit the density, weight and finish of the historic papers they would be used with, for a more sympathetic infill.

In the theory session, we learnt about the different plants, methods of extracting fibres, sheet formation, the impact of climate and how all of these effect the finished papers. The practical sessions fell into two groups; those designed to increase our familiarity with the different papers (such as forming and toning our own sheets of paper) and ways they could be used in conservation practice (with pre-coated papers, lining and repairs). Making paper is as much fun as it sounds and it was interesting to use this paper for toning and eventually for repairs. I will also be experimenting more with Klucel M for pre-coated papers as I was unfamiliar with it and it reactivated well.


The course was an informative few days with a very encouraging and experienced tutor. I will use this new knowledge to make smarter choices about the papers I use and better adapt them to the historic materials they are repairing.

Course pack on final day

Sarah Graham works at Maynooth University Special Collections and also freelances. She won a B&PG Professional Development Bursary in April 2018.


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